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Dr Heejung Kim & Dr David Sherman

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Why do I Recycle?: Socio-Cultural Diversity in Predictors of Support for Pro-Environmental Actions

Heejung S. Kim, University of California Santa Barbara

Addressing global issues such as climate change requires significant support and engagement of citizens with diverse socio-cultural backgrounds. Yet, empirical efforts to examine socio-cultural diversity in what motivates pro-environmental support and how to increase it have been limited. This talk will present findings showing that people from different socio-cultural backgrounds support or reject pro-environmental actions for different reasons. More specifically, our studies examine the relative importance of personal factors (i.e., personally held environmental beliefs) and social factors (i.e., perceived social norms) as psychological antecedents of support for pro-environmental actions. Using a range of methods, including analysis of nationally representative survey data, lab experiments, and field studies, we tested the idea in relation to three dimensions that are theorized to influence this prioritization (i.e., culture, social class, and religion), we found that social factors predict support for pro-environmental actions more strongly among people from contexts where social interdependence is emphasized (i.e., collectivistic culture, lower social class, and religious individuals) whereas personal factors predicts support for pro-environmental actions more strongly among people from contexts where independence is emphasized (i.e., individualistic culture, higher social class, and not religious individuals). The presentation will also include a discussion on shared psychological mechanisms underlying the influence of these socio-cultural factors, and how this knowledge may be utilized to bring out desired social change.

Psychological Barriers to Bipartisan Climate Policy

David K. Sherman, University of California, Santa Barbara Leaf Van Boven, University of Colorado Boulder

Why has the United States failed to enact climate policy despite the clear environmental imperative to do so? Many explanations for why the US has not passed climate policy emphasize Republican skepticism about climate change. Yet results from national panel studies in 2014 and 2016 indicate that most Republicans believe in climate change, if not as strongly as Democrats. Political polarization over climate policy does not simply reflect that Democrats and Republicans disagree about climate change but rather that Democrats and Republicans disagree with each other. Results from two experiments suggest that ordinary Democrats and Republicans support climate policies that are proposed by politicians from their own party while they devalue policies proposed by politicians from the opposing party. One experiment in 2014 included a national sample considering policies historically associated with liberal politicians (cap-and-trade) and policies associated with conservative politicians (revenue-neutral carbon tax). Another experiment conducting prior to the 2016 election included a sample of voters in Washington State considering a carbon tax that appeared on the ballot. Both studies demonstrated a clear party-over-policy effect. As strongly as people are swayed by partisanship, they perceive that other Democrats and Republicans would be even more swayed by partisanship. This foments false norms of partisan opposition that, in turn, influence people’s personal policy support. Correcting misperceived norms of opposition and decoupling policy evaluation from identity concerns could help overcome these barriers to bipartisan support for climate policy. A study with citizen climate lobbyists in the US suggests how these strategies could be implemented as well as how effective they are perceived to be in persuading Congressional representatives to support a bipartisan climate solution.

David Sherman (Ph. D., Stanford University) is Professor in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is a social psychologist whose research centers on how people cope with threatening events and information. He has co-authored op-eds about climate policy and political polarization in such outlets as the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and published numerous articles in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Psychological Science, and PNAS . Dr. Sherman is an Editor at Personality and Social Psychology Review and has served as an editor (from 2011-2016) at Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. He is the past-president of the International Society for Self and Identity (president 2016-2018). His research focuses on understanding psychological barriers to adaptive outcomes in education, health, and sustainability, with a focus on implications for policy and practice.

Heejung Kim (Ph.D., Stanford University) is Professor in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences, UCSB . She has published numerous articles in JPSP , Psychological Science, PSPB , and PNAS , and received multiple grants from NSF . She was an Associate Editor for PSPB and JPSP , and is an Editor for PSPR . She is interested in the cultural influences on psychological processes. In particular, her research examines 1) cultural differences in the perception and the effect of self-expression, 2) cultural differences in the use of social support, and 3) how social and cultural factors influence decision making. In so doing, she addresses the implications of these culturally specific cognitive, affective and behavioral tendencies for health, educational, and environmental outcomes.

This talk is part of the Social Psychology Seminar Series (SPSS) series.

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